|View from Drewry's Bluff of James River, where Rebels drove off Union flotilla on May 15, 1862.|
(CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE.)
About 7:30 on the morning of May 15, 1862, Union ironclad gunboats Monitor and Galena, part of a five-vessel flotilla, dropped anchor in the James River within 600 yards of the Confederate fort at Drewry’s Bluff, Va., and opened fire with their massive guns.
|Elizabeth McCloy was a widow|
with six children.
(Images above and below
courtesy Robert McCloy)
"Our brave tars on the James river are not the least downhearted," a Northern newspaper wrote, coating the defeat with more than a scoop of sugar, "but expect to renew the bombardment and drive the rebels from their position."
It never happened.
At the fort on the bluff 90 feet above the James River, casualties included at least seven killed and eight wounded. And well outside the fort, one poor victim suffered a sad, and gruesome, end because of an apparently errant Union naval shell.
|Irish-born William McCloy, a|
Confederate officer, died of
disease in 1862. He was
married to Elizabeth McCloy.
Confederate firepower was also aided by Rebel ingenuity. Steamers, schooners and sloops were sunk as obstructions in the James River beneath the bluff, preventing Union vessels from firing their weaponry at point-blank range and from sailing on to Richmond.
Evidence of "obstructionism" survives in the form of a receipt (below) from the Confederate government for $250 for the use of Elizabeth McCloy’s “lighter,” a small boat, as one of the “obstructions at Drury’s Bluff.” McCloy, the mother of six children, was married to Irish-born William James McCoy, a lieutenant in the 15th Virginia (Henrico Guard), who died of disease on March 4, 1862.
Dated June 19, 1862, Mrs. McCloy's receipt indicates the Confederacy "purchased" the vessel from her after the Southerners had turned back the Union gunboats a month earlier. (Hat tip: descendant Robert McCloy, a reader of my blog.) Images of the James River obstructions, perhaps including Mrs. McCloy's contribution to the Confederate cause, were photographed by Northern photographers in 1864 and 1865.
|An 1865 image of obstructions placed in the James River by Confederates to hinder Union vessels.|
(Library of Congress)
|Another Confederate obstruction in the James River, near Drewry's Bluff.|
|Receipt Elizabeth McCloy received from Confederate government for her "lighter," a small boat.|
(CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE.)
|Close-up of Mrs. McCloy's receipt for $250 for her James River obstruction.|
(Image courtesy of Robert McCloy)
|A post-war image of Augustus Drewry (seated center),|
Confederate commander at Drewry's Bluff on May 15, 1862.
(Courtesy Ashton H. Wheeler)
Of course, Confederate newspapers took delight in pricking the dastardly Yankees -- even picking on them for their reference to Drewry's Bluff as "Fort Darling." The fort was named after local landowner Augustus Harrison Drewry, a captain in the Confederate artillery who was commander there during the attack in May 1862. On Aug. 2, 1862, the Richmond Dispatch wrote:
“It is well known that the Yankees, in all their allusions to our batteries at Drewry’s Bluff, have applied to them the name 'Fort Darling,' and some indignation has been manifested at their assumption of the right to christen a locality which the South has made formidable. It is not, however, original with them, for that portion of the shore of James River will be found designated on some of the old maps as 'Darling’s Point,' from which they borrowed the idea; but the name should be forever ignored in the Confederate States, because it was fished up by the Yankees from the depths of the almost oblivious past, and because 'Fort Drewry,' the term given it by those who gallanty repulsed the enemy’s best gunboats, is not only proper as a compliment to one of our commanders, but in every respect applicable to the locality.”Perhaps the dissing from the Dispatch even brought a smile to Widow McCloy.
(Click at upper right for full-screen experience.)
-- Reading (Pa.) Times, May 22, 1862.
-- Richmond Dispatch, May 19, 1862.